The Japanese town of Naraha near the Fukushima Daiichi NPP has lifted a 2011 evacuation imposed after the meltdowns at the plant, allowing its 7400 residents to return.
The government says radiation in town has fallen to levels deemed safe following decontamination efforts. Naraha is the first of seven cities surrounding the power plant that has been cleared for repopulation since the March 2011 accident. The town represents a test case, as most residents remain cautious amid lingering health concerns and a lack of infrastructure. Only about 100 of the nearly 2600 households have returned since a trial period begun in April. A recent government survey said some 46% hoped to return.
Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said "The lifting of the evacuation order is one key step, but this is just a start." He said concerns about radiation and nuclear safety remained. The town will be without a medical clinic until October, and a new prefectural hospital will not be opened until February next year. A grocery store started free delivery services in July, and a shopping centre will open next year. Residents are given personal dosimeters to check their radiation levels. To accommodate their concerns, the town is also running 24-hour monitoring at a water filtration plant, testing tap water for radioactive materials.
At the end of August, evacuees from three municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture - the city of Minamisoma, the town of Kawamata and the village of Katsurao - returned home for long-term stays prior to lifting of their evacuation order. The government allowed three-month stays to prepare for permanent returns. The government will decide by November whether to lift the evacuation orders following feedback from the evacuees.